Army chef provides comfort to Soldiers and Families in central Alaska
September 14, 2011
Reindeer sausage and bison burgers have only one thing in common. These regional delicacies are featured on the menu for the new Fort Greeley Community Activity Center set to open soon.
"Our menu is extremely family friendly," said Russell Littel, Chef/Food & Beverage Specialist in the G9's Business Operations Directorate at the Installation Management Command . "We offer the 'lighter fare' that is in high demand today. There are a variety of healthy salads, and for central Alaska, the soup of the day is essential."
Fort Greely sits about 320 miles northeast of Anchorage. In July, the average high temperature is 69 degrees. In January, however, the average low is - 11 degrees. At these extremes, comfort is measured in family, fun and good food.
"Healthier options for Soldiers and their Families are the key," said Littel. "As a father, I can appreciate how important the kids' menu is."
There are 84 recipes that Business Operations is managing at the center, where normally a 30-to-40 item menu is common.
"These Soldiers haven't been to the lower 48 in a while, and pizza, cheesesteak and a good hamburger are a must," said Littel. "What is uncommon is our "broasted" chicken, which is fried in a pressure cooker."
Broasted chicken is a method similar to that used by some of the most popular and successful fried chicken retail restaurants.
"This method is quicker to prepare and is a more juicy and crunchy product," said Littel. "With this recipe and the others, we wanted broad menu choices so that our customers could eat here on a daily basis, maybe two weeks straight, and not have to choose the same menu item."
The Greely facility has been on the radar for about a year at Business Operations. They get involved once a need is defined at the Army garrison. In this case, a brand new multi-purpose facility was proposed, including dining, bowling, meetings, arcade and games, requiring the best food that the Army could provide. Business Operations assessed the existing facilities and employee skill sets, lunch and dinner programs, and determined what was best and realistic for the area.
"We don't just plan the meals," said Littel, "we design comfort for the men and women serving here."
Chef Littel also serves as an infantryman and food operations sergeant for the Texas National Guard in the 36th Infantry Division. He will be deploying next year to Afghanistan.
"There are hundreds of Reservists and National Guardsmen who come to Greely to do their mission," Littel said. "Many have families close by or in town who can really benefit from our planning."
The Fort Greely Community Activity Center will feature an 8 lane bowling center, billiards, darts, shuffle board and air hockey.
"Think: rec center meets warrior club meets NCO club," said Daniel Cain, Community Activity Center Manager. "It'll have a sports bar feel, with a giant chalet-style fireplace at its focal point, but good food is the key."
The center will have a reading area, an internet capable computer room, a 60-inch television room with theater seating and Wifi, as well.
"This will be the social hub for the Fort Greely Family -- Soldiers, Families, full time National Guard and civilians," said Cain. "Quality of life-wise, this will be night and day."
Fort Greely has grown by leaps and bounds in recent years. With growth comes the expectation from the community for facilities that improve the day-to-day experience.
"We are chomping at the bit for the opening," said Tracy Miley, wife of Col. Joseph L. Miley, commander of the 49th Missile Defense Battalion, "and I love that the menu will have healthy choices for the adults and the children. The community center will become a huge mecca. How amazing is this to have everything right here?"